...A NIGHT TO FORGET
After Robbie left them on the deck of 'Stuff!', the couple had started to make their way below when they noticed various objects lying around the cockpit which had been left stowed in
lockers. A pair of diving gloves, for example, were on the floor of the cockpit where they had not been lying
earlier. Down below, in the saloon, too, there were signs of intrusion.
Thoroughly alarmed at the signs of what looked like a robbery, Kevin moved towards the front of the boat to see what else had been disturbed and Naila moved towards the back. Her scream as she opened the door to the aft stateroom brought Kevin
running. Five masked men had been sitting in the cabin, waiting for the couple to return to the
One was brandishing what appeared to be a Magnum.38 firearm, although it turned out to have been a replica, another was armed with a very real machete and the others had a cutlass and knives between
Naila didn't pause to find out what the men planned to do with their weapons but dashed back to the cockpit and locked the companionway hatch between the intruders and
herself. Kevin tried to raise the coastguard on VHF channel 16 but there was no response.
The intruders, believing that the coastguard was on the way, started trying to break down the hatch in order to avoid being caught down below decks and Naila screamed with all her might but
no-one could hear her over the music from a nearby late-night dance bar.
Naila burst into tears and a couple of the men, who sounded a lot younger than their physical size
suggested, begged her not to cry. She asked how they could do this to a black sister just trying to earn an honest living aboard the
boat, working hard for her wages, and she could tell that some of the gang were beginning to feel uncomfortable about their
Kevin was formerly a member of the British armed forces, is an experienced yacht skipper and a calm and responsible
man, and his main fear had been that these men might try to harm Naila.
Now he quickly spotted that the gun was a replica, letting the man who held it know that he wasn't fooled by
it. The story emerged that this gang had arrived at 'Stuff!' in a wooden boat which they had stolen from the
shore. It was the property of a local fisherman who was in the habit of removing a plug from it whenever he left the boat
unattended, to discourage anyone from borrowing it without asking him
This bunch of rascals knew nothing about boats and had not realised why the boat was sinking underneath them as they made their way over to
'Stuff!'. The boat was very nearly submerged by the time they clambered aboard the yacht and they abandoned it to its
fate, leaving an honest fisherman without the means to go about earning his living.
The thoughtless bunch had expected to find Kevin and Naila aboard because their dinghy was tied to the side of
'Stuff!' and had only gone through the contents of the boat, out of curiosity, they
said, while they were waiting for the crew to return.
It would appear that this bunch of miscreants had been aboard 'Stuff!' before, as guests of the owners who had also taken them for rides around the bay in the
dinghy. They were under the illusion that Kevin and Naila were taking 'Stuff!' to Sint Maarten that night and had decided that they would insist on being taken
Kevin firmly explained to them that hi-jacking 'Stuff!' was not an option and that they would get into bad trouble if they appeared illegally in Sint Maarten and would be deported back to Dominica where they would be in worse
This possibility had clearly not occurred to them and suddenly they gave up the attempt and started to remove their
masks. One of them would turn out to be only fourteen years old, three others were under eighteen and the
ring-leader was a thirty-year old alleged crack user and known criminal, out on
parole, thanks to the kind intervention of a Trinidadian lady magistrate serving
locally, before whom he would find himself appearing again, sooner than he had
The younger chaps asked Kevin if he would give them all a lift ashore in the
dinghy. It seemed the best way to get them off the yacht so he agreed. He and Naila were astonished when the boys brought out
back-packs and hand-luggage which they had stowed away whilst awaiting their departure for Sint
Maarten. Naila asked if the bags were filled with items stolen from the boat but it seemed that the gang had packed their clothes and worldly possessions in preparation for the
trip, having planned it all in advance!
The police arrived at Petit Coquillage within minutes of being called. We had heard the gist of the story
and, once the police had arrived, most of the other guests, ourselves included, made haste to check on our
yachts, in case the gang had already visited them or had intentions of doing
The following morning, after a sleepless night, Kevin and Naila passed by on their way to the police
station, bearing with them the bad news which was that the gang had found all the cash the couple had been saving towards the wedding they planned for this August as well as the funds left by the owners for the boat's maintenance expenses and the couples latest
wages, amounting to around US$2,500 but also the helpful news that the
ring-leader had removed and left his soaking wet trousers on board when he had climbed out of the sinking stolen fishing
In the pocket was his parole document, giving the police all the information they needed as to his
identity. The replica Magnum had also been left aboard 'Stuff!'. After giving the police all the information they could think
of, Kevin and Naila let it be known amongst the local youngsters that they were offering US$100 for information leading to the arrest of any one of the five people
We could hardly sail away and leave our friends unsupported in their hour of distress so we stayed
put. By the end of the day, word came that at least two of the
fugitives had been spotted hiding in caves up a nearby river.
The police arrived to collect Kevin and his dinghy and Albert, who is an expert river
guide, to drive the dinghy up the river in the dark to look for the lads but, alas, without
success. The police did not give up though, and later that same evening, less than
twenty-four hours after the incident, they apprehended one of the five.
By the following evening, they had caught the other four miscreants and a hearing was booked for Monday morning at 09.00 hours - the earliest possible
opportunity. There was a dilemma though, as is so often the case concerning incidents involving foreign visitors to a country.
To press charges for attempted hi-jacking would mean having to refer the case to a higher court in the capital,
Roseau, and the victims would be obliged to remain on the island for maybe eighteen months pending the trial
procedure. This was not an option for Kevin and Naila or the owners of
It was agreed that charges of theft should be pressed instead, since this could be dealt with
swiftly. It occurred to us that pretty well everyone in the area knew that Kevin and Naila would be attending the hearing on the Monday morning and there was a risk of some other
opportunist, whether local to the island or living aboard another visiting yacht, being tempted to raid
'Stuff!' for more of her goods while they were ashore.
By the law of averages it stands to reason that some part of the yachting community must also be
thieves, indeed we know that to be the case, so we offered to stay and watch over her and then leave as soon as they were back on
The brilliant efforts of the police in capturing one of the parties involved so quickly was cause for a celebration on the Friday
evening, over at the Petit Coquillage. Eric from 'Bugs' joined us . He said his owner had decided that
'Bugs' should leave the bay in the morning since he felt, quite understandably in the
circumstances, uneasy about security.
Eric lectured us interminably on the subjects of honesty and sincerity, drinking copious quantities of whisky and inviting anyone and everyone who entered the bar to have a drink on his tab. Complete strangers were surprised at his generosity but accepted happily and he included them in his congregation as he warmed to his monologue. He became stuck in
'transmit' mode and his 'receive' function appeared to have ceased to operate as the night wore
on. It was raining quite hard outside and he had a captive audience.
At about 2 am, as everyone else took advantage of a break in the rain to get
home, and we were about to do likewise, Eric staggered out onto the beach, was extremely unwell and then collapsed into a heap on the
sand. We agreed to make sure he got back to his boat and the bar owners asked him to settle his US$60
account. He produced US$50 and said it was all he had on his person but promised to pay the remaining US$10 in the morning before leaving the
area. He crawled into our dinghy and appeared to have become unconscious. We tried to take his dinghy in tow and our outboard
engine, which was dampened by so much rainfall, failed us. We roused Eric, for a
moment, and he said we should use his dinghy, if we could get it going, but that would not start
By this time we were drifting along in more or less the right direction. Now a wind arose from the shore and started to push us quite rapidly out towards the open sea. Eric remained apparently comatose in the bottom of our dinghy but with the painter
(rope) of his dinghy in his possession. As Robbie and I paddled with all our might to try and reach the only yacht anywhere near
us, Eric, vomiting over the side, managed to let go of his dinghy, so we had to turn
around, grab his dinghy and then paddle even harder to make up the lost
Paddling like mad, we managed to reach the tiny yacht we had spotted, just before it was too late and we were swept away to a possible ten days adrift
or, worse still, an eddy or a boat unable to see us in the dark, and oblivion.
I grabbed the stern rail of the little boat and hung on, while Robbie tied us
off on a deck cleat and we sat back exhausted to catch our breath.
The owner of the yacht, a charming Belgian gentleman, came up from below decks and I explained to
him, in French, that we had engine trouble and the rest he figured out for
himself. We apologised profusely for disturbing him but he was only too glad to be able to provide a temporary
At this point, Eric sat up, took out his cigarettes and lit one, seemed perfectly fine and relaxed about the whole
situation, as if we were out on a picnic. We asked our benefactor if we might leave Eric's dinghy tied to his stern rail since we might be able to reach
'Stuff!' and borrow their dinghy if we were paddling our own dinghy alone but with Eric's in tow it was an
impossibility. He said we might leave it for a short while but he must leave at 05.00
hours, so we would need to retrieve it as quickly as we could. We agreed to return within the hour if it were humanly
As we made ready to paddle like mad but without the 'Bugs' dinghy to slow us
down, Eric slumped in the bottom of our dinghy, apparently unconscious again. There was one boat between the Belgian yacht and
'Stuff!' and we paddled as hard as we could, managing to grab the anchor chain of the intervening yacht and take a breather for a
We set off over the longer distance to 'Stuff!' and, desperate not to be swept out to sea, a very real
possibility, Robbie exhorted me to paddle faster, himself working flat out. I told
him, gasping, that I was doing all that I possibly could, and it was true. I thought my heart might burst with the
effort. Eric lay
serenely in the bottom of the dinghy, apparently oblivious to the danger or the efforts being made to avert
Again, we just managed to grab 'Stuff!' by the stern before we were swept beyond reach of anything to cling to and tied ourselves to her rail. Poor Kevin and
Naila, having already lost the previous night's sleep were now awoken and asked to loan us their
dinghy. They were, as always, totally charming and understanding of the
They agreed to watch over Eric's apparently unconscious form, while Robbie and I went with their dinghy to retrieve Eric's from the Belgian yacht. When we
returned, Kevin got into our dinghy with Eric and made sure Eric's dinghy was still properly attached to ours and we towed both dinghies over to
We were being as quiet as we could, hoping to avoid disturbing the owners of
'Bugs' but the outboard engine was having to work against the efforts of the
wind. We secured Eric's dinghy to 'Bugs' and, to our amazement, when Kevin leaned over Eric and told him we were at
'Bugs', he got up, climbed onto the fishing platform at the stern of the vessel, held a finger up to his
"Ssh" as though we should cut the motor now that he was safely aboard, and disappeared into the cockpit of the luxury motor yacht with neither a thanks nor an apology to any of
In the morning, 'Bugs' was gone and Eric too, leaving the debt to Albert and Silke
US$10 probably doesn't sound like much money but, in out-of-season Prince Rupert Bay and with five children under 9 years of age to
feed, it represents a lot more than they can afford to lose.
The amount isn't, actually, the most relevant factor. There are principles
involved here, not to mention hypocrisy. Or
maybe it should be mentioned. As should the matter of bringing
community (in our case, that of cruisers) into disrepute.
Every time someone misbehaves, we all sink lower in the esteem of our hosts.
Is it safe in Prince Rupert Bay? We thought Eric was asking whether he would be safe at the hands of the local
people. We had no idea
he might be trying to ascertain whether these were the sort of people whose trust a visitor could safely
Read the last page,
about the hi-jackers.